The Hellbound Web is proud to present a review for Boom! Studios new Hellraiser comic series, written by Clive Barker himself, alongside Anthony Diblasi, with art by Stephen Thompson and Janusz Ordon. This review was written January 2012.
Christopher Monfette, writer of the first eight issue arc of the Hellraiser comic has stepped down and in his place is Anthony Diblasi, better known for his work directing the Clive Barker adaptation “Dread”, and a member of barker's own personal creative team. This is not a subtle change, there's a very distinct change of tone in the writing and whilst the previous issues blended more traditional Hellraiser themes and imagery with those of Barker's wider work, this latest issue slides more into originality and Barker's own wider shared mythology. This has both its successes and its problems, however, making this perhaps a conflicting experience for readers used to the comics progress so far.
The narrative continues straight on and, indeed, the first arc was always a small part of the bigger picture. Pinhead's aim from the start was to seek 'heaven' and finding a suitable replacement was a means to this end. So we now join Elliot Spenser, living in the real world, searching for the key to heaven, whilst hearing hints of Kirsty's rule in Hell. The character work here is wonderful, and shows a whole new side to Spenser, whilst Tiffany, now working alongside him, seems more toned down and realistic compared to her previous appearances. It is in the characterisation and the journey of Elliot that this issue succeeds the most, as it begins to set up new plot strands.
However, that plays into some of the issues weaknesses as a whole. All the issues until this point have felt like they had their own identity. Whether the journey in the subway system or the back stories of the Harrowers, there felt like most issues had a clear point. “Heaven's Reply Part One” lacks this internal coherence. It feels very much like the start of something else, yet feels less satisfying as an experience in itself. Whilst this is not a major issue, it is worth pointing out, just as it should also be emphasised that the story-lines it is setting up look to be most intriguing.
The most controversial elements, perhaps, amongst old school Hellraiser fans is the flashback opening depicting the Cenobites riding into battle in Hell on the back of skinless horses. This evokes the epic Hell's and striking imageries of Barker's Coldheart Canyon or Mister B. Gone, but it perhaps a drastic departure from the more occult and gothic horrors many Hellraiser fans are used to. It's a tonal shift as well, with the rest of the series up to this point. It is perhaps too early to judge how this will play out, but it is safe to say this is no longer the Hellraiser of old. It, of course, remains to be seen as to how successful this turns out to be.
This issue had a lot of challenges to overcome. A new writer, a clear change in direction, no traditional Pinhead in action and Elliot Spenser back in the 'real world'. It was always going to be difficult, and then there's the addition of a whole new plot-line on top of that, and so it is perhaps not surprising the issue feels somewhat less coherent. Considering all of this, the issue is successful in conveying its story and the characterisation remains strong. I have no doubt, beyond this introductory issue, the series can only improve, and I look forward to following the development of this plot as Hellraiser enters new, unexplored territory. “Heaven's Reply Part One”, meanwhile, gets a solid Three Hooks out of Five, and an optimistic desire to see where we shall go next.
The Hellbound Web would like to thank Boom! Studios for the oppurtunity to be a part of this exciting journey for Hellraiser fans everywhere. Clive Barker's Hellraiser #09 is available now. Discuss this issue on the Hellraiser Forum.
Boom! Studios Official Website